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Women's Language


Explanations > Gender > Women's Language


These are ten elements of the language that women use, as identified by Robin Lakoff in 1975. Of course, not all women use all of this language all of the time, and some may question the whole. It would be interesting to do a duplicate study now and see how much of this has changed since the 1970s.

1. Hedging

Hedging provides a way out, should disagreement occur, qualifying statements with non-absolute language, such as 'sort of', 'I guess', etc.

Well, I sort of looked at him, and then he kind of looked back. Then I guess I kept looking.

2. Politeness

Politeness is taken to more extreme forms, either putting the speaker in an inferior position or seeking to be thoughtful and non-threatening towards the other person.

Do excuse me, but I really appreciate it if if you could take a little time to help me.

3. Tag questions

Tag questions added to the end of a statement do not change the statement, although they do seek agreement.

You would do that, wouldn't you?

4. Emotional emphasis

The emotional content of sentences are increased through the use of intonation that emphasizes and exaggerates emotional.

You are so very kind. I really want you to know I am so grateful.

5. Empty adjectives

Adjectives are applied to soften and add friendly elements to the sentence, although they are do not add any particularly meaningful content.

What a charming and sweet young man you are!

6. Correct grammar and pronunciation

Care is taken to be correct with language and speech. Colloquialisms and slang are used far less than men.

I would be very appreciative if you could show me the way.

7. Lack of humor

Humor is not used very much and jokes are very seldom told.

8. Direct quotations

The words that people said are often quoted, even quoting people who quote other people.

Then she said that he said, "I won't do it." So I said, "Why not?"

9. Extended vocabulary

Rather than simple language, vocabulary is extended to use descriptive language. Thus, for example a precise language is used to describe colors.

The walls should be cerise, with a royal blue tracer.

10. Declarations with interrogative intonation

Statements are made, but using the intonation used for questions, rising at the end of the statement.

That sounds like a good thing to do?

See also

Gender language differences


Lakoff, R. (1975). Language and woman's place. New York: Harper & Row

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